Iowa Churches Protected From ‘Public Accommodation’ Restroom Law…For Now

desmoineschurchThe Fort Des Moines Church of Christ filed a federal lawsuit last summer challenging the Iowa Human Rights Commission’s interpretation of local “gender identity” laws that might have forced churches to allow men to use private facilities designated for women and not to speak against it.

The city mandates that entities offering “public accommodations” violate the privacy and risk the safety of women by allowing men pretending to be women into their restrooms and other areas where women expect privacy.

A federal court earlier this month denied the state’s motion to dismiss the church’s suit and the church’s request for an injunction on the grounds that churches aren’t considered public accommodations and, therefore, aren’t subject to the law. From Christian News Network:

In outlining that [U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose] did not see FDMCC as being likely to prevail in its legal challenge, she also outlined that the congregation was not likely to be required to allow males who identify as females in women’s restrooms and vice versa.

“[S]tate and federal courts have held that churches and programs they host are not places of public accommodation,” Rose wrote.

“At the hearing before the court, both the State Defendants and the City stated that Plaintiff’s restroom policy is likely permitted under the anti-discrimination laws because the policy is plainly drafted to serve a religious purpose and that all of the activities Plaintiff enumerated within its Complaint also appeared to be religious in nature,” she said.

“Plaintiff has not shown that the challenged laws would ever apply to its conduct.”

Christina Holcomb, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said the ruling reassures and clarifies to churches that they won’t be subject to the “gender identity” law.

But as the ADF noted, churches might be exempt from the law for religious activities on the property, the same might not apply for non-religious activities. It’s not over yet.

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